I was immediately excited about Buy Us, For You, By Us because the image of a brown skinned girl with braids in a camel turtleneck spoke to me. I am a huge fan of the turtleneck. I’m also a huge fan of representation and seeing people who look like me depicted in creative works. So, without even knowing what Buy Us, For You, By Us was about, I had a good feeling.
What I had failed to notice was that the model had a lot of armpit hair…on the outside of her shirt. Now I was intrigued. While doing a little more digging online, I came across photos of people with more armpit hair, but also hairy nipples. Again, on the outside of their shirts. I was confused.
I was also curious. What did Buy Us, For You, By Us mean?Buy us. For you. By us. David Roth’s artist statement described this as “a locally-inspired look at urban planning and lifestyle marketing.” There was also mention of the artist being somebody who encourages to audiences to rethink how they examine worth and value. I expected also that there was going to be a powerful statement about bodies and how we groom and clothe them. Fast forward to an especially rainy Tuesday afternoon, and I am on the number 9 bus, eastbound on Broadway to see Buy Us, For You, By Us at Field Contemporary.
As I opened the door to the the gallery, I was already feeling a little intimidated by how few things and people there were in the room. Some framed pieces on the walls, three garment racks with clothes hung on them and a barber’s chair in the center of it all. I said ‘Hi’ to the two people huddled over a computer in the corner, one of them echoed my greeting and they resumed their conversation. The clothes, which were hung as they would be in a retail space, all had hair on them. Some shirts with hair on the armpits, others with hair shaped into nipples and even some with hair on the sleeves. There were also gloves with hairy knuckles strewn about. The armpit hair was realistic and varied in texture, which left me wondering if it was real.
These garments, framed or as is, were all for sale. There were also printed photographs of the garments being modelled. All the pieces were named after people, which left me thinking that the shirt titled Jamie had Jamie’s hair attached to it. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave with an understanding of why any of this mattered or should be interesting. In fact, I had to thumb through the pages of a binder that I was not quite certain was meant for visitors to even discover that detail.
My feeling is that work should speak for itself, or be explained. Clearly some statement was being made. What that statement was however, was completely lost on me. There was no artist’s statement or explanation of what the work was about, though there were people working in the space who might have initiated a conversation with me, as the only person in the space. Instead, they chatted amongst themselves and stared at their phones.
I really wanted to like this exhibit, but instead walked away confused and with wet shoes. It’s difficult to say that it’s worth making the trip, because all of the images can be seen online and I gained nothing from the experience of visiting the gallery, besides seeing with my own eyes that this was in fact hair glued to everything. I would have preferred to walk away with an understanding of why there was hair on all the garments and what David Roth hoped to achieve with this work.
This winter, The Cinematheque is hosting Traces That Resemble Us, a screening series and art exhibition that explores art and cinema in Vancouver. SAD Mag’s Helen Wong caught up with acclaimed Canadian artist Vikky Alexander to discuss architecture, photography, and “revenge.”
SAD Mag: Why did you choose the film Playtimefor Traces That Resemble Us?
VA: My interest in Playtime comes from its satirical perspective on architecture. I like to think that is a film about architecture’s “revenge”. In the first part, the uniformity and perceived inhumanity of International Style architecture is identified in the complete confusion it causes for the protagonist, who cannot find or connect with the bureaucrat he’s looking for because of the office building’s unkind intervention. At an International Trade Fair, a group of American tourists are only allowed to peep at the historic city of Paris through reflection in portions of glass-curtain walls, which the monuments seem to literally slip off. When Hulot goes to meet a friend for an evening, he is confounded by the entrance to the apartment. He can see his friend and family from the street through the floor-to-ceiling window, but cannot figure out how to access them, and when he leaves, he cannot exit the main door. Finally, on the opening night of a chic restaurant, the room, furniture, food and costumes literally self-destruct in front of us. The more ruinous the interior, the more fun for all.
SM: How does your piece currently on display at Monte Clark Gallery use aspects of the film? What is the importance of reflection?
VA: My piece at the Monte Clark Gallery is a photograph of a shop window that I took in Istanbul a couple of years ago. The shop was one of many on a street that specialized in decorative furniture and objects for the home. I really liked how the shop window was like a pristine stage set that was untouchable because of the pane of glass in front of it. And yet the reflections on the window literally superimposed the life of the street into the virtual ‘home.’
SM: Do you often reference architecture in your works?
VA: I often reference architecture in my photographic, collage, and sculptural works. I am particularly attracted to utopian projects and have documented places like the West Edmonton Mall (Alberta), Disneyland (California), Las Vegas (Nevada), Vaux le Vicomte (France) and the Palm House in Kew Gardens (London). I see these projects as fantastic, fascinating, and flawed.
SM: What do you think of the term “environmental determinism”? Do you think that our thoughts and behaviours are influenced by the built environment?
VA: The film I chose, Playtime, makes a mockery of environmental determinism, I think. It seems to prove that regardless of architectural and environmental restrictions, human nature will triumph, and the film demonstrates that with humor.
SM: Most of your works reflect on the notion of utopia, how do you aim to situate the viewer within this space?
VA: I think all of us, either on a small (domestic) or large scale, construct and design our own utopias, and yet they are flawed because it’s human nature to want something better…better sofa, better house. And the minute you get that better sofa, guess what, you want the one that’s even better than that one.
SM: How do you work to achieve a self-reflexive nature through the recontextualization and reconstruction of appropriated images?
VA: In my early work (1980’s), I appropriated images from the editorial sections of European fashion magazines, cropped and enlarged them and reframed them. All text was eliminated. When I reframed them, I added a large black overmat, which functioned as a sort of black mirror when glass (for the frame) was placed on top. In this way the reflection of the everyday viewer was superimposed on top of the utopian fashion models. These works are similar to my more recent photographs of showrooms in Paris, Istanbul, and Tokyo. Quite often the passerby on the street is superimposed on the luxury objects in the shop windows.
SM: Vancouver has a distinct history of art and film, how do you see this reiterated in contemporary art?
VA: I’ve always seen Vancouver as having a very particular photographic history and I’ve always felt that photographers have a close relationship to the cinema, originally because of they were both film mediums, I guess. But for some reason (maybe because Vancouver is so “photogenic”) I find it difficult to photograph here. Maybe because we have so much soft light, due to the climate.
SM: What is your favourite building and why?
VA: It’s difficult to pick a favorite building, as I have so many, but one really spectacular building is the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in New Haven Connecticut designed by Gordon Bunschaft in 1963. It belongs to Yale University and the exterior walls are gridded marble panels, so that when you are inside on a sunny day and the light shines through the veins in the panels the whole building seems to be on fire. It’s amazing.
BAS is a monthly photo series at sadmag.ca. With a penchant for light erotica and general horseplay, the gang at BurnAfterShooting continues to brave Vancouver’s seedy underbelly, striving to push the boundaries of what can be considered tasteful and proper. For more by BAS, follow them on Instagram or check out their website.
I pushed my bangs to the side of my forehead again. Just like I’d done 10 seconds ago.
Everyone else went through this phase last year. But not me. I somehow missed the bangs-aren’t-cool memo. Now everyone sported stylish parts down either cheekbone and I was stuck in the death stage, with bangs too short to store behind my ears but too long to sit where they naturally wanted to fall.
I let go of my hair and turned my attention back to Julia.
“So?” I answered, voice a tad bit less casual than I’d hoped for.
“Sooo,” she said, glaring at me from across the cafeteria table. “I was supposed to go to Stanley Park today. After school. And now apparently the stratosphere is screwing me over. Feel sorry for me, jerk.”
“It’s not the stratosphere,” I said, adjusting my bangs yet again. “Weather happens in the troposphere.”
I was fidgeting with my hair so much I didn’t notice she was gone until I looked up a few seconds later to an empty table.
I frowned and resumed my lunch. What was her problem?
Then again, maybe a technical correction wasn’t the best consolation.
High school is the troposphere of life, Ithought. It’s where all the weather happens.
Jessica Schmidt is a grade 11 student at Langley Fine Arts school. She is not particularly tall, or particularly short, but she likes to complain about her height anyway. If Jessica could travel anywhere, she would take her whole family and move to Greenland—although she doesn’t know why she’s so attracted to that thought…maybe because she’s always felt more at home in ice and snow than hills and fields.
Jamie Smith is a Vancouver artist, educator, consultant, and events producer. Her mixed media paintings are inspired by her many travels and focus on the sediment of memory and experience. She is the founder of THRIVE Studio, a place for female artists to connect and learn, and the creator of ROVE, a Mount Pleasant Art Walk. More by Jamie Smith here.
CATCHING UP WITH ANGELA GROSSMANN AND DREW SHAFFER – SEPTEMBER 2015
An artist interview by Sunshine Frère
It is a stunning September afternoon at the Thierry Cafe on Alberni Street in Vancouver. The melancholy music that Yan Tiersen created for the French film Le fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulin is wistfully resonating throughout the sunny patio where I have just sat down with artist Angela Grossmann. Her longtime friend and fellow artist, Drew Shaffer, has arrived from inside the cafe. Shaffer gently places a beautiful piece of cake, with luscious raspberries adorning the top, on the table for us all to share, and off we go, tumbling into the jiggery pokery world of Angela and Drew.
Angela Grossmann and Drew Schaffer recently exhited their work together in a duo exhibition called Jiggery Pokery at Winsor Gallery. The exhibition ran from October 15 – November 14th. This interview was conducted a couple of weeks prior to the exhibition opening. Grossman, who is represented by Winsor, was very much looking forward to showing alongside her longtime friend. The joining of these two sets of works in the same space, provided Grossmann and Shaffer an opportunity for their ever evolving conversation about art, language, game-play, memory and life to be experienced anew.
Angela: How I met Drew was that I rented my studio, which I am still in–it was above the Salmagundy shop store on Cordova. I would go by and it’s a friendly neighbourhood, but its really changed. Drew was the proprietor of the shop and we got to chatting. Though, we were never never allowed to just chat were we?
A: I’d walk by and I’d see a face through the window and he’d give me a thumbs up or a thumbs down if the owner was in.
D: So Ang would come in looking for photos instead.
A: And you!
D: Yes, she was looking for me, and images of stuff to do her work with. When I was first at Emily Carr we would do one of those class field trip type things, and once we went to Diane Farris Gallery and I saw her work there and was just amazed. So it was quite exciting because I knew who she was. She would come up and buy photos and things like that, and I thought, oh yeah, this is really cool! I don’t just have a shitty job right? It was a very interesting place in those days. Those types of shops are great places for people like us to find the raw materials to make the work that we make.
A: It was.
D: So, yeah, we both start from a similar place, we go and find something that inspires us that already exists and then talk to it, bringing it into being somehow. For me, generally it will become a 3D object and nine times out of ten for Angela its going to be something two dimensional. We use these found objects as a starting place, to start the dialogue. And sometimes it’ll be something very humble, I ask myself, why does this grab me the way that it does, and what is it about this particular object that is so inspiring? Is it the functionality of it? What is it saying to me?
Sunshine: Do you decide instantly always what you are going to do with the found object or do you sometimes hold onto it not knowing what it will be for?
D: Yes, sometimes its instantaneous, but more often than not things have to stick around for a while. I have this massive collection of old suitcases full of things like that…. I have this recall memory in my head of what all the suitcases hold. Suitcase encyclopedias.
A: You know, when I was in school, it was a going thing, you had to have an image bank. A bank of things, photos and images things you liked, images that made you think of things, whatever it was. And there used to be this incredible image bank at the Vancouver art gallery, that had been kept over a hundred years, but they got rid of it–I couldn’t believe it. Anyway, I’ve got my own image bank, but its not just images. It is full of things that I like, things that I respond to, my materials. But I don’t like to collect things for the sake of collection, I only collect to use them. Because I don’t like stuff hanging around. Sorry, I just thought I’d differentiate myself there. (chuckles)
D: I on the other hand do have a lot of stuff hanging around that I may or may not use at one point.
A: Exactly, I get very anxious about things hanging around…
D: Yeah, you’re more purist than me.
S: Do you purge more often Angela?
A: Yes, but not of things you would think, for example, I’d never throw out my old buttons, but I would throw out a pair of old gucci loafers, no problem. But my old buttons, bits and swatches of materials are all stuff I keep, but only for collage purposes. Because I think materials make me associate and associate is what I do. It’s the very nub of what I do as an artist. I’m an associate. (chuckles) When something is happening for me it is because I am able to make to make associations that day or in that work and can clearly see when it’s a great one or when it’s a forced one. You really learn how to associate. When you’re trying to go down those paths but it’s forced, you can tell when it is good or no good or when it’s great.
D: And, I as well as Angela do that with language. I’ll phone her up and say, I’ve got a pun, it seems to be a current that runs through my work and everything in my life. Like I call my brother up on Fridays and we trade spoonerisms back and forth. Sometimes their just sonorous, and they don’t really mean anything. But the best ones are the ones that can be read both ways and mean something, like the The Taming of the Shrew or The Shaming of the Trew. You know like that kinda stuff. And I see objects very much the same way.
A: Turn them upside down, turn them inside out, put them back to front, see what happens, see where it goes.
D: Yeah, because there is something there. Whenever you pick something up, there’s something there–you know, you know that it’s loaded somehow. You know that, that object or image has something for you. It’s the weirdest thing.
A: I love that. It’s loaded with possibilities.
D: It’s loaded with possibilities, you see that thing and you know right away that you gotta have that because there is something there for you.
A: I think that’s true for everybody that ever collects anything, not just with art.
D: Oh yes!
S: But all the potentials that are and were there for the object disappear once you connect with it as you are taking it in one particular direction.
D: Yes, its a fork in the road I think.
A: As visual artists all we do is associate and make these connections. Poets also, because all they do is use language to open stuff up and make connections and refer to things, its always referring to things, it’s never as it is.
D: Ang and I are not exchanging images and seeing each other’s work until we install the exhibition. We’ve been wanting to do something together for quite some time and now we are.
A: We first thought of doing something together that was theme based. Where we would both do work on the same subject. But this show has morphed and it is us both doing work at the same time instead. I’m not looking at Drew’s work and he isn’t looking at mine.
D: Those are the rules, that is the game plan.
A: That was the game because, I can’t do work about you, and you can’t do work about me. We’re just going to hope that in the show there is some kind of relationship there, as there is with us.
D: I am sure there will be.
S: How did the title for the exhibition, Jiggery Pokery, come about?
D: Ang came up with this name…
A: It’s not a word that I came up with, it exists…it’s sort of a bit higgledypiggledy, hocus pocus, jiggery pokery. I mean it’s all word play. The reason why I think it’s nice wordplay besides the fact that it actually means something, but also because it’s also associating sound with what we like. We like these associations… and that the sound, it …it tumbles out.
D: Yeah, it feels good on the mouth to say it. It’s really interesting because it dates back to the mid to late nineteenth century and it was a word initially used for subterfuge.
A: Like, “he’s up to some jiggery pokery over there!”
D: Yeah, its a little bit sneaky, I think it is a great word. But then that’s the first meaning and then there’s a secondary meaning that they started using in around nineteen twenty, where it started meaning to cobble things together. Like, it’s a bit of jiggerypokery that got the engine started. And you can also spoonerize it piggeryjokery. It was also really interesting, I discovered this American poet who used these archaic words and phrases and wrote these really cool poems, purely for the fact that they had great rhyming capabilities and their sonorousness. Once again, yet another level of what we are doing. I discovered this poet Anthony Hecht who uses phrases like jiggery pokery, he did some work with another guy called John Hollander. I was pretty happy when I discovered him. Anyways, one of the lines in one of his poems describes what jiggery pokery is and he explains it as: “using whatever you’ve got around to get the job done.”
A: Absolutely! We could quote that!
D: Yeah, its great stuff! A lot of the stuff that I’m dealing with is the seduction and abandonment of inanimate objects. I find that really interesting. You come across these things and they look so helpless and you can see a vestige of what they were to somebody at one time, but they’re no longer that anymore. In the fact that they’ve been discarded, they become, to me at least, so much more interesting.
D: I’m also really interested in how we choose to define ourselves by what we own. The general view of the object when desired is that it is hip. My general view is that it becomes more interesting when its not hip anymore or when its discarded. It’s not trying to prove itself anymore. I often turn the use of a functional object into more of a narrative or metaphor rather than a practical perspective. It’s a different kind of practicality I would say.
A: If I may interject here for everything that you’ve just said, I would reiterate that my own work uses likenesses of people who are long gone. So, they’ve got that echo of being familiar, but at the same time not existing anymore. I think I like to play between that which is still current and that which is gone, but what is it, that remains, that we have a connection to. What is the humanity that crosses over from then to now. So it’s all about that bridge.
S: The way you’re approaching the installation of the work is very much attached to the notion of game play, just like how you two approach your friendship. Drew’s objects will arrive at the gallery, Angela’s will arrive at the gallery and then the two of you will connect the dots on site.
A: It will be very fun, the thing is I have absolute respect for what Drew does, so I have total trust in whatever he does. I’m excited to show with Drew.
D: This is a great opportunity, and I’m excited too.
A: Drew and I have a lot of echoing in what we talk about and what we think about.
D: Both Ang and I are interested in fashion, people’s clothes and the items that they choose to wear to express their identities. On a small scale from a personal perspective and on a large scale. Because fashion moves at such a fast pace, the whole seduction and abandonment rate happens so much quicker. Things that are beautiful become almost instantly ugly. Because art has this hallowed niche, people are like ‘oh it’s art, its sitting on a plinth hanging on a wall and blah blah blah’, you give yourself more time to contemplate it, or to reflect on your relationship with it in a much more sort of hallowed way. Because that process happens much more quickly in fashion it doesn’t have that chance to be self-reflexive and because of that it is very interesting in retrospect. Certainly with Angela’s work when you look at the old photographs of people and the types of clothing that they’re wearing what they thought was really great at the time and of course these things come full circle and they become great again.
A: Yes, we’re interested in that sort of stuff. But who isn’t!?
S: Who isn’t indeed!
Special Thanks to Angela and Drew for the interview. The exhibition was a great one!
If you would like to see works in person, you can visit Winsor Gallery, they can pull out any remaining works from the show.
On now at The Cinematheque is Traces That Resemble Us, a screening series and art exhibition that explores art and cinema in Vancouver. The Cinematheque invited 12 prominent artists to each program a film that has been influential to their work. I had the pleasure of visiting Ian Wallace at his studio to discuss his involvement in the series as well as his thoughts on film in Vancouver.
SAD Mag: How did you get involved with Traces That Resemble Us?
Ian Wallace: Shaun Inouye from the Cinematheque called and said they had come up with this concept for an exhibition that takes a range of Vancouver artists whose work has been involved with film in one way or another. In my own work I’ve made reference to films, I’ve attempted to make films, and in the 1970s I was shooting and taking stills off my own films and using them for large scale works. Since then I have been citing and referencing well known films from the European avant-garde in the 60s.
I am interested in the theme of the male and female relationship reflecting from a gender politics point of view. I aim to express this symbolically, taking stills from well known films and cutting and separating the male and female figures on the canvas. That was my basic strategy as I’m not commenting on the film themselves insomuch as I’m using the theme and figures to make my own statements.
SM: Why did you choose Contempt for the exhibition?
IW: The film is about the breakdown of a marriage. The male character begins to question why his wife doesn’t love him anymore…why she feels contempt towards him. I’ve taken references and images from this source and converted it to my own expressive iconography.
SM: What is it about the male/female relationship that attracted you to explore this theme?
IW: It is very much my philosophical mindset. I explore the idea of difference and opposition. In my own work an opposition between abstraction and representation exists. It acts as a formal expressive sense of opposition in regard to how marks and meaning can function in different contexts. And of course in our everyday lives—in the gendered politics of our lives—there is a biological difference in contrast between male and female that is subliminal. We try to erase it but we have to recognize that we have completely different bodies and emotional senses as to how we see the ‘other.’ I am interested in and influenced by the feminist movement of the 70s and all the questions that come [with it]. We must recognize that the organic world is constructed biologically as a gendered structure, even plants have male and female structures.
SM: That’s interesting from a biological point of view, what else are you interested in?
IW: I’m interested in the fundamental image of difference and how we can understand that and absorb that into our image consciousness. How images influence how we think and…meditate on what those differences mean through the image. By cutting, splitting and often reversing the image of the male and female [my work] exaggerate[s] this difference.
SM: Does the binary between photography and painting have any relation to the male/female relationship?
IW: Yes. Painting is only a field or ground for the signifying mark which is the photographic image. The photographic image is itself full of representational material. In a photograph, it’s hard to avoid references to the world; I like this because it enriches the meditative aspect. I like thinking of paintings as fields for meditation for thinking out subject matter. I’m interested in abstract painting, how a jolt of colour occupies space in an image, how it unifies, fragments, and marks an image. Abstract painting doesn’t mean anything, there is an absence of meaning while photography is full of meaning. I have to say, though, in the end everything has some kind of meaning in the sense that it has some context. A mark on a canvas has a context of the whole history of the representation of painting.
SM: You mentioned that you were influenced by feminist artists in the 70s. Artists such as Barbara Kreuger and Mary Kelly were working with language and exploring its patriarchal roots. Do you think we can subvert this patriarchy?
IW: I try to listen and be sensitive to the female aspect. I cannot speak to the female aspect, I can only speak from the male point of view. I don’t think language is exclusively patriarchal but much of language is. The practice of women in culture today is more engaged than it has ever been historically which works to overcome the framework of language being patriarchal.
I don’t necessarily account for it except for…within the references I’ve made in my work. For instance, a woman is going to have a different feeling than a man when viewing my work, and a woman is going to have a different feeling than another woman. Someone who understands the film will have a different relationship than someone who has just seen the image for the first time. I don’t think there is any exclusive reading, I only put the general notion of the meditative object into context: an object for aesthetic contemplation.
SM: Can this apply to film?
IW: The critiques of feminism in the 70s have opened up how we read movie images and film images and [have] caused a lot of change in how they are produced as well. It addresses what kind of responsibility a director, artist, or author has in the meaning he creates.
SM: Is the use of montage represented in the way you’re using film stills?
IW: It is definitely a form of montage; I’m cutting into the body of the images. In film there are a variety of shots, reverse shots, close ups, over the shoulder etc. I’m cutting into each still from a particular angle, [and] through this a participation that occurs; I am reconstructing and recasting a film text in my own subtle way.
A feminist artist, arguably more influential than Kreuger and Kelly, is Sherry Levine. She is an artist who has appropriated male art, such as Walker Evans and Egon Schiele, and reconstructed and reconverted them in her own way. So she has in fact provided a metacritique of a feminist point of view using male-produced works.
SM: In this case, are you providing your own metacritique?
IW: I am doing something similar. I’m appropriating an image and recasting it in my own way, but I interfere with the image a lot more than she does.
SM: Vancouver has a unique history of film, ranging from the variety of films shot here to the work of important photoconceptualists such as yourself and Jeff Wall. How is this history incorporated in works today?
IW: We’ve all been experiencing film, television, and the dramatic image as we unconsciously model ourselves [after] forms of behaviour given to us by the dramatized image. As a group of artists (Jeff Wall, Stan Douglas etc) dealing with cinema and intellectual things, the study of art history moves things forward into contemporary models of thinking. None of us are critical, political, or theoretical in an obvious way, but it deeply informs our work without being clearly read as a mandate to the viewer to think a certain way. I give personal forms and expressions of a general theme that probably identifies my position in ways that I don’t even understand. People can then contemplate and open doors for themselves. Art works as stimulants for people to produce their own meaning, not just to consume other people’s meanings. I mean, that’s the function of art. I try to keep my work as simple as possible, as open as possible. There is a precise set of information I have in terms of thinking about art and history and my own expressive context, but ultimately anyone can do what I do.
SM: Then what is the role of the artist?
IW: To open the doors of perception—that’s the name of a book by Aldous Huxley. In it he explores how drugs can open up new ways of thinking: That’s what art should do.
Ian’s pick Contempt has already been screened, but you can check out films selected by other artists such as Stan Douglas, Rodney Graham, and Myfanwy MacLeod every Thursday until December 17 at the Cinematheque. You can also check out the corresponding Traces That Resemble Us art exhibition at Monte Clark Gallery, on until January 30.
Talking Heads is an interview column devoted to contemporary arts and culture in Vancouver. Look out for more of Helen Wong’s interviews on sadmag.ca.
Bizarre Love Triangle is an arts and literary festival happening November 27th and 28th at 552 Clark in Vancouver. The festival is a collaborative effort between Sad Mag, Real Vancouver, and Obscurior, and is shaping up to be the year end party we’ve been dreaming of. The festival is 100% totally free, but capacity is limited, so reserve your tickets here in advance to ensure you get through the door and in on the fun.
On the 27th, the festival is kicking off with Obscurior x Sad’s Point of Inflection exhibition–thirteen writers created short pieces prompted by a Point of Inflection, and Obscurior created cinemagraphs and original music to accompany each piece. There’ll be live readings, and live performances, and a DJ set by City of Glass, so bring your eyeballs and your ears for 13 generally spooky takes on a tipping point. See the trailer here.
The 28th is an open gallery for you to peruse, plus artist talks throughout the day. Then, that evening, is THAT FINAL MOMENT–Sad’s and Real Vancouver’s Year End Party to end all Year End Parties! We’ve got Beer by Driftwood and Phillips, and live performances by Gay Sha and Vixen Von Flex (the beauty our Movement issue cover)!
Hosted by the lovely Sean Cranbury and Dina Del Bucchia, an evening of cheesy jokes, live readings, live performance, sweet music, and boozy drinks. Celebrate a year well destroyed, issues created, and art dispersed. This is our bizarre love triangle send-off. Party with us.
High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of fiction and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.
BLACK SAGE BENCH By Curtis LeBlanc
One is English and the other is French is what the neighbour says about his dogs. They run along the rows of grapevines tangled around wooden stakes and wire. At the end of the day he calls to one dog come here and the other vient ici and they both come running to him faster than most have ever ran for anyone.
For the entire summer before her senior year, the girl works for him, picking weeds and pruning vines in the Okanagan heat. She’ll take being alone outdoors over spooning gelato for retirees and tourists. There are slivers in her hands that she will never get out, and she’s tanned like the keys of a piano between the straps of her overalls, camisole, and bra. She wakes at sunrise every morning, gets dressed, and walks with her breakfast across the gravel road between the two properties to the neighbour’s work shed.
Her father sits at the patio table all morning, all afternoon, whistling along to pop-country songs coming through the portable radio. He waits for it to pass, for the heat to subside on the banks of Skaha Lake, and drinks bottles by the case, bottles of wine made from the grapes that the neighbour has worked so hard to grow.
He never asks the girl about her day, though she figures he may like to hear about it. In a year it will be the grapes that she cared for bringing colour to his face, keeping his lips wet for the whistle, holding him up in wine country.
Curtis LeBlanc was born and raised in St. Albert, Alberta. He currently lives in Vancouver where he is an MFA candidate at the University of British Columbia. Recently, he was a runner-up in Broken Pencil’s Unearth Your Underworld fiction contest. His writing has appeared in Poetry is Dead, The Maynard, Existere, Joyland, Little Fiction, Sport Literate, and is forthcoming in Prairie Fire.
Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.
High School, our 20th issue, is on the way. To celebrate, we’re publishing a series of fiction and illustration that celebrate those teenage times for what they were–glorious, hopeless, funny, moving, or just plain embarrassing.
PEACOCKS By Christopher Evans
Back in high school, my step-sister Kathy dated this guy named Braun, a real ape. He was always super polite in front of our parents, but as soon as they turned their backs, Braun would stick his hand down Kathy’s pants and then hold his fingers under his nose to sniff. Kathy would wink and whap him on the shoulder and say, “Stop it, Brah-nee,” like it was just the cutest thing in the world. If a song came on the radio that had “you” in the chorus, Braun would sing “poo” instead, which is how he ruined my favourite Bryan Adams song, by singing “(Everything I Do) I Do it for Poo.” That was the caliber of his sense of humour.
Because my mom moved us in with her dad, I was the one who had to change schools and didn’t know anyone, so I was always tagging along after Kathy. Braun hated it. I remember one time, our biology class took a field trip to the natural history museum in Peachville and somehow Braun was there, just mingling with the Grade Elevens, even though he’d graduated like four years earlier. He and I were standing in front of the display of taxidermied birds and he was just staring at the peacocks for a long time—I swear I could hear his synapses cracking—before he turned to me and said, “They should call them ‘pissdicks.’ Get it?” When I didn’t respond, he mimed pulling a huge penis out of his pants and urinating all over my face—again, a real class act. He told me I’d never get to finger someone as hot as my step-sister. “There’s not a single thing special about you,” he said, and pretended zip his pants back up. “You don’t even exist.” He swaggered off to grope Kathy and look at the amphibian dioramas, leaving me alone with the stuffed birds.
I think of this now because Braun was right and wrong. There is certainly nothing special about me, but I do exist. You exist, too, and maybe aren’t anything special either, and could that be the reason why we’re so good together?
Christopher Evans works, studies, and occasionally sleeps in Vancouver, BC. His fiction, non-fiction, and poetry have appeared in Riddle Fence, The New Quarterly, The Canary Press, Joyland, and other fine publications in Canada, Australia, Ireland, the UK, and the USA. Follow him at @ChrisPDEvans.
Amelia Garvin is a painter and illustrator who has exhibited her work in group shows across Vancouver. She has a BFA from Emily Carr. See more work by Amelia here and here.
In person, Ola Volo is as warm and whimsical as her artwork. A graduate of Emily Carr University of Art and Design, and the creative force behind designs for local clients like Lululemon and Doan’s Craft Brewing Company, it is easy to see Volo as a Vancouver artist. But, as successful as she is in this city, an international perspective is what elevates her work. We met at her apartment a few days before Halloween to chat about her upcoming CreativeMornings talk and life as a working artist.
Visual art as a profession is difficult for most people to wrap their heads around; the idea usually evokes images of noble poverty or antisocial genius. Volo disproves both these stereotypes, and her pragmatic approach to making a talent into a career is inspiring. What Volo firmly believes, and proves with her success, is that professionalism and artistic integrity are not necessarily opposed. Volo says she “hasn’t had a day off” since she started, and the idea of treating creativity like a nine to five is something she learned to do early on.
Growing up in Kazakhstan, Volo’s parents placed her in almost every genre of art class you can think of, from pastels to painting. She describes the classes as “babysitting,” but it is easy to imagine her as a precocious artist. When asked about developing her distinctive style, full of swirling patterns and playful figures, Volo says she has doodles and designs from early high school that look remarkably similar to her current work. Her style is clearly an authentic representation of who she is.
Volo consistently refers to her pieces as “stories,” perhaps a more apt word to describe the folkloric works she creates than “paintings” or “illustrations.” During her sold out CreativeMorning’s talk, she claimed she saw her style as a way to explore the stories that are important to her, not the other way around. Like a writer searching for the perfect word, Volo’s unique illustrations are the ideal language to explore the things that fascinate her.
This visual language is remarkable in its versatility; Volo’s work is equally at home on a gallery wall or a magazine cover. She combats the unflattering stigma of commercial art, only lending her style to projects that she can become invested in, that become her story. “My style cuts very close to my background. My inspiration comes from the stories I grew up with and books I owned as a kid. It all becomes like a personal voice, and if the project is not fitting, why would you want that voice to represent that project?”
Volo was introduced to the world of professional illustration soon after graduation. About a month after earning her degree, she flew to New York City to show her portfolio: “It was the first time I met working illustrators…They were all so passionate and very motivated, very prolific, doing things all the time, in like seven different avenues.” What Volo took away from her meetings was a sense of the sheer hustle that goes into working as an artist. The experience was both inspirational and terrifying; “I was so intimidated by New York…like ‘Oh my god this city will chew you up and spit you out, there are so many illustrators!’”
When Volo returned home to Vancouver she briefly abandoned illustration and tried to focus on a more straightforward career. A conventional career path didn’t last long, and she quickly found herself back in New York, where she lived for six months; “I made a promise to myself that if I find something that is so scary for me, then I should go there, I should figure something out with my work and myself.”
Traveling and periodically relocating keeps Volo on good terms with Vancouver and excited about her work. “It really grounds you,” she says. “You come back refreshed and full of ideas…you appreciate Vancouver again.”
Volo has said that she gravitated towards illustration as a way to transcend language barriers, and feels drawn to the idea of public art for the same reason. Commercial work allows her pieces to reach a huge audience, much more than individual works that are often sheltered in private homes. Public art takes this idea to the next level. “I like it when art is accessible to everyone. I want people to feel included, not excluded.”
Although she feels the need to leave the city occasionally, Vancouver hasn’t tired of embracing Volo’s work. The audience at CreativeMornings was thrilled with her candid words as well as her illustrations. As the talk ended, Volo was presented with a position as Artist in Residence at HCMA Architecture + Design—one more Vancouver business that will benefit from her unique vision.